Tai Chi and Qi Gong: Facts and Comparisons


Ways to Recharge. As humans, we obtain energy by breathing, eating, and drinking. We can also get more energy through specific practices, such as tai chi and qi gong.

Qi Gong=Energy Work. The direct translation of Qi Gong is “energy work.” Qi gong exercises are designed to increase one’s qi or life force energy. Only living beings have this qi or energy. More qi means being healthier and feeling more alive.

bruce gods qi gong
Qi gong works to restore natural energy flow. Qi gong exercises also help to move the energy in our bodies for health.

Exercises for muscles in one part of the body, such as bicep curls, won’t help much with healing an injury in a different part of the body, such as a sprained ankle. Qi gong exercises to increase and to balance one’s qi can. A smooth energy flow throughout the body, especially the injured area, can lead to a faster recovery.

Spelling. There are several different ways of spelling Qi Gong—Chi Gong, Ki Gong, Chi Gung, Qigung—and countless ways it is actually done.

Speaking of spelling, it’s worth mentioning that the word ‘chi’ in Chi Gong is not the same as in Tai Chi. The (unnecessary) confusion comes about because of how the West sometimes spells Chinese words. In this case, the same spelling is used for two distinct words with very different meanings in Chinese.



Qi Gong and Tai Chi Both Work with Energy. Many qi gong exercises have slow and graceful movements, just as in tai chi. Practitioners strive to move their energy as well as their bodies in both.

However, there are some basic differences between tai chi and qi gong:

As a group, qi gong exercises are more varied than tai chi.

An individual qi gong exercise focuses on specific energy flows. Tai chi works with all energy principles, simultaneously.

Qi gong does not directly train fighting skills. Tai chi can (but may not).

Qi Gong is More Varied. Just as there are a variety of ways of spelling qi gong, there are a variety of ways it is done. There are thousands of qi gong exercises. Qi gong can be done standing, sitting, and lying down, all with or without physical movement. Some forms are practiced with trees, conversation partners, as well as with sexual partners.

With such a number and range of qi gong exercises, it’s no surprise that considered collectively, qi gong exercises are much more varied than tai chi.

qi gong 2 persons

Qi Gong Exercises are Focused. A specific qi gong exercise can be quite focused in its approach for increasing energy. For example, one qi gong exercise may focus on breathing, while another works to strengthen energy flow to the heart. Still others may focus on reducing effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

Tai chi is not as focused on a particular type of energy flow. Although tai chi can be modified based on the individual practitioner’s condition, it doesn’t offer specific techniques against specific diseases or conditions.

Tai chi practitioners seek to include all of the general energy principles in their form, all at the same time, and in all of the moves.

This is a tall order. It’s typical to start one’s tai chi workout with a few different qi gong exercises to get these different energy systems on-line and humming before moving on the tai chi sets.

Qi Gong Doesn’t Include Fighting Techniques. Many martial artists, regardless of school or style, will warm up with some qi gung exercises. The qi gong is used to increase power, but does not include actual fighting techniques.

Tai chi includes fighting techniques, although many practitioners choose not to emphasize this aspect.

Qi Gong and Tai Chi Health Benefits. Both qi gong and tai chi are ways an individual can improve their health and energy. These exercises are consistent with the practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM),and allow individuals to take active steps in maintaining their health.

Next: Read about tai chi as a martial art, or Tai Chi Chuan.



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